PITTSBURGH – For those fans who’ve only been following the team over the past few years, this is what it was like for generations of rooters before 2014.
September swoons of the past for the Cubs have featured an array of painful losses coming in some unusual ways. This past homestand was evidence of that, especially the last two losses of a four-game sweep at the hands of the Cardinals, who did so in a series of that length for the first time since 1921.
Two Cubs leads not only disappeared in the ninth but were topped by St. Louis, who won both games without even needing extra innings. That was preceded by two one-run losses to the Cardinals and another to the Reds; all apart of a six-game losing streak to end what once was a 4-0 homestand.
Surely a trip to struggling Pittsburgh, whom they scored 47 runs against a week-and-a-half earlier would end this torment?
No. These Cubs are representing their past in a present free fall.
Once no hitting the Pirates at PNC Park into the sixth inning on Tuesday night, Kyle Hendricks and the Cubs’ defense collapsed in the seventh, leading to a seven-run inning that blew the game open, giving Pittsburgh a 9-2 victory. That seventh-inning disaster led to a seventh-straight loss that coupled with Brewers win leaves them five games back of the last Wild Card spot with five games left.
It also came at the expense of the Pirates, who came into the game having lost nine-straight contests. Their nine runs on Tuesday night were more than they scored in their three-game series in Milwaukee this past weekend.
There is no margin for error if the Cubs want a fifth-straight postseason appearance, but there’s hardly enough at the moment to make people believe that can be pulled off.
Oddly enough, it look as if this could be the day for the Cubs to snap their six-game losing streak as Kyle Hendricks cruised in the early going. He didn’t allow a hit until the sixth inning and got out of that frame scoreless. Nico Horner’s fourth-inning RBI double had the Cubs up 1-0 heading into the seventh inning.
Then the game turned, doing so a bit earlier than the previous contests against the Cardinals.
Hendricks suddenly lost his touch, surrendering five consecutive hits – three singles and two doubles – with the last from Kevin Kramer giving Pittsburgh a 3-1 lead. Then the defense became an issue as a hit from the bat of Jacob Stallings got past Ben Zobrist, allowing two runs to score to make it 5-1.
Pitcher Danny Hultzen then hurt his own cause, as he fielded a chopper then threw wildly to second, allowing a run to score to make it 6-1. Adam Frazier’s single was the last blow in this terrible inning that sealed their fate.
Hoerner got a run back in the eighth on a single but the Pirates responded with a homer by Erik Gonzalez to seal the Cubs’ fate on this night and nearly the entire season as well.
Just when fans thought trends of their past were gone, here came this week, and there goes this season.